Bonuses in the spotlight in ASA rulings

Bonuses in the spotlight in ASA rulings

Friday, September 30, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
Free bet marketing practices in the spotlight

Two adverse rulings from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK against Ladbrokes and NetBet highlight the pressure operators are facing over the continued use of bonuses and free-bet offers in their marketing.

In one case a complaint against Ladbrokes was upheld by the advertising watchdog after a promotional email offering a free bet was sent to the customer in question who was unable to use the offer after his account was restricted a matter of days previously.

Ladbrokes admitted that though it did move to inform the customer that their account had been restricted, this occurred after the free bet offer email was sent to the complainant as a personalised and exclusive offer. Ladbrokes said the email had been sent in error due to a 72-hour time-lag in informing the customer of their account restriction.

The ASA concluded the ad was misleading. “Furthermore, as the complainant was not eligible to take advantage of free bet offers at the time that they received the email, we considered that the ad would have caused unnecessary disappointment, and that Ladbrokes had not dealt fairly with the complainant,” the ruling concluded.

In the second ruling against NetBet’s holding company Cosmo Gaming, the ASA looked into a complaint regarding a ‘money back if you lose’ tweet from the company posted ahead of a match between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in May this year.

The complainant suggested it was not clear in the original tweet that the money-back offer was restricted to the first £5 of any bet. Further the full terms and conditions which stipulated that money could only be withdrawn if it was rolled over at least six times were also not clear from the tweet.

The ASA found that though the conditions of the bet were clearly signaled on the landing page, it was not possible to fit it into the tweet. But they added that the £5 limit was significant enough that consumers should have been made aware of it before they clicking on the bet now option embedded in the tweet.

As well as asking for the ad not to appear again, the ASA said that Cosmo Gaming/NetBet could not in the future claim that consumers would receive money back if the refund offered was not withdrawable as cash, and to ensure that tweets included significant conditions to their promotions.

In a bad week for NetBet, the ASA also censured one of its TV ads, suggesting that it glamorised gambling by suggesting that it could enhance personal qualities and living standards, particularly by offering financial security.

Both decisions on bonusing are an indication that the ASA is getting tougher with the conditions that are attached to free bet and bonus offers. Speaking at the Betting on Sports Conference in mid-September, Richard Hayler, managing director at IBAS, the betting arbitration service, said that though that regulatory clarity was lacking at present there was the likelihood of further moves in the year ahead. “The rules that we already have are being enforced more frequently and I’d be amazed if even clearer and righter rules didn’t come in soon,” he added.

Totally Gaming says: The marketing strategies of UK operators are under increasing scrutiny and not just from the advertising watchdog. The UK Gambling Commission has also issued guidance on their use while the UK Treasury is putting the final touches to its plans to tax bonuses as revenues as of next year. Bonuses and free bets remain an important element of the marketing mix, but it is likely they will have to become simpler and more straightforward if the practice is to continue in the UK.

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